Article

Advance Organisers – How they Connect the Reading Experience

<![CDATA[

Reading is a highly complex activity and, yet, in the foreign language classroom, it is often approached as if texts are just collections of words and grammatical patterns which students, if only they could analyse and decipher them, would be able to arrive at the overall meaning of the text.

But, is this what happens when we read in the world outside the classroom? Wouldn’t it take forever to read anything if that is what we did?

When we read (think about you, reading these lines) we engage in a series of decisions,  interpretations and reinterpretations of the stream of text we are involved in processing but, do we do this merely at word and phrase or sentence level?

In this post, I would like to highlight the role of previous knowledge in interpreting textual meaning and have my readers think how they could translate this into best classroom practices in teaching their learners to be effective readers.

The diagram below shows two things:

1) the types of knowledge readers make use of in order to understand a text, beginning with what they already know about the subject, of similar texts, of type of publication and specific reason for which something was written as well as linguistic knowledge they possess.

2) the order in which this prior knowledge is put into use, with linguistic knowledge put to use last rather than first, in other words, processing is effected from the top-down rather than from the bottom-up, with bottom-up exploration coming into play when the reader encounters difficulties interpreting/understanding part of a text.

This is what we do as readers in the real world – in which we are not only accomplished in the language in which the text is written but, moreover, we have both reason and desire to read.

Language learners who are not accomplished readers, will, unless trained by their teachers, usually begin processing at word and sentence level, in effect trying to arrive at the overall meaning by first understanding all the small and local nuts and bolts of each text. This makes for slow, laborious and unmotivated reading.

Here is a diagram which represents the levels and types of knowledge we use to achieve understanding of a text.

reading_comp

Adaptation of a chart created by Anderson, A. & Lynch, T. 1988, Listening, OUP (p.13)

The diagram I have adapted from the original by A.Anderson & T.Lynch (1988) is an attempt to make a case for engaging our learners in activities prior to reading which will activate schematic/background knowledge, and will bring contextual knowledge into play as further ammunition for help in interpreting – thus, it is hoped that our learners will learn to make use of top-down processing;  bottom-up processing will be put into effect when they encounter meaning difficulties, when there is a need for reading between the lines, for text interpretation at a deeper level or for identification and recognition of language features which we wish to have them notice and be aware of.

Activating Prior Knowledge – Advance Organisers

“If I had to  reduce all educational psychology to just one principle, I would say this: The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows. Ascertain this and teach him accordingly”

Ausubel, D. P. (1960). The use of advance organizers in the learning and retention of meaningful verbal material. Journal of Educational Psychology, 51, 267-272.

This is something I read only very recently, but it rang a variety of bells which first started ringing when I studied psycholonguistics at university and first heard this term in relation to the processing of discourse (whether spoken or written). I am going to try and make a connection between the concept of advance organisers which D.P. Ausubel introduced to the idea of facilitating learning by activating previous knowledge and top-down processing which is perhaps more familiar to foreign language teachers.

Graphic Organisers

A typical example of an advance organiser or sometimes called graphic organisers, would probably be some type of diagram which the learners would be involved in actively completing prior to reading a text  You can view more examples here and here

In ELT terminology, graphic organisers go by the name of “information transfer‘, a term first coined by H.G.Widdowson (1979) who identified them as excellent bridges between what he called ‘comprehension’ and ‘composition’, in other words, receptive understanding and productive skills work, speaking or writing.

Widdowson doesn’t describe exactly the same use of information transfer as I am suggesting here; but I see no reason why his ideas should not be combined with the concept of advance organising, tuning in the learners’ mind into a topic by drawing on available knowledge, not only of facts and information but of language as well – something which is of great interest to the language teacher.

Understanding the relationship between information transfer and different genres is a really useful idea, as different types of diagrams suit different text types, for example, a flowchart diagram will usually be appropriate if a text has sequential information – narrative, instructions, a process description.

Here is an example I have used with a newspaper article with the following title:

Husband tried to kill his wife 7 times

Attempt No:

How did he do it?

What did he use?

Why do you think he failed?

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

© Marisa Constantinides 2002

After a brief lead in in which the students look at the headline and see that the husband’s attempts were unsuccessful, the table above gets them to think and predict what different methods he may have tried to use and possible reasons why he may have failed; this aims to activate prior knowledge of such events, as well as related linguistic knowledge; it aims to stimulate curiosity by personally investing in this type of guesswork. By the time the students are allowed to read the text, they are really just checking to see if their guesses were the right ones.  The same diagram is used for checking up with the text ( diagram as bridge). Later, if you like and are so inclined (:-) ) you can get them to use the same diagram to invent a fictitious failed criminal who failed to rob a bank 7 times or something similar.

(If you are curious and want to have a look at the text, please go to my Materials & Downloads page and you will find it in the folder called SEETA Reading Course)

The most popular and simple graphic organiser which is used by many educators (not only ELT teachers) looks like this and it is easy to put up on a board, on a google document or even a Wallwisher!

go

 

Cues or Prompts

I am using the term here in a different sense to how it is used in audionlingualism, in which the teacher supplies a verbal or non-verbal prompt for a student to reproduce a language pattern.

Cues or prompts in pre-reading activities may also be verbal or non-verbal but their purpose is to generate anticipation and predictions related to a text the learner are about to read. They can be simple or complex; for example, a series of controversial statements which the students must discuss before they read a text is still a prompt, albeit a more complex one.

Here is an example of such a prompt I have used to generate predictions related to a story the learners are about to read.

truestory

A list of key words or key phrases may also act as a prompt; the learners can use these to guess the topic or they can be asked to choose which ones might be expected to be included in a text with a specific title or headline. In the case of working with a whole book, the size or amount of text may vary and it may include predictions about plot, character, themes and settings.

truestory2

Questions

The concept of questions to elicit prior knowledge and generate predictions is a familiar one, in which the teacher may lead the learners into thinking about a topic by asking a variety of questions. This type of lead in is just one of the many available but, in reality, most often used because it requires minimal materials preparation.

Again, more often than not, this type of dialogic model tends to place the teacher at the centreand may  generate more teacher talk –  your choice to follow or not.  A teacher can avoid this by writing up the questions on the board and asking learners to discuss in pairs or by assigning one or two questions per pair or group to discuss and present to the rest of the class.

The Q & A format could be seen to exist in advance organisers as well; a heading in a table or graph is, in a fact a question, isn’t it?  The only difference being the format.

I personally tend to prefer questions asked by the learners themselves.

For the learners to ask their own questions about a text they are going to read, they may need one or more prompts. for example the prompt example above can be used by the class/groups to ask the teacher questions about the narrative, but only Yes or No questions – than, based on the teacher’s answers, they can be invited to try and construct the text from the answers and the prompts before they read it.

Or, they can be shown the “husband tried to kill wife 7 times’ headline and be asked to brainstorm as many questions as they think/hope the article will answer to satisfy their curiosity . The questions can be shared by all or not but the learners are then asked to read with their own questions in mind – not the teacher’s or the book’s.

 

Final Thoughts

I have been trying to argue the case for creating a range of activities which will

  • engage the learners prior to reading a text
  • prime them and motivate them to read
  • promote top-down processing of the written text
  • create a bridge to later stages in the lesson
  • increase flow/task accountability from stage to stage
  • lead to focused and purposeful reading
  • provide a stimulus for follow up productive skills work.

Advance organisers can be great tools for this, but stimulating learner curiosity, excitement and motivation to read can be further enhanced by other cues/prompts and types of questioning. So, combining, mixing and matching for text, diagramatic display, sound and visual stimulation can work even better and stimulate different learners in different ways.

Diagrams (or information transfer or graphic organisers … )  have additional value however.

Their added value to other types of  priming activity is their ability to demonstrate logical links between ideas or hierarchical relationships. Once comprehension of a text has been achieved, the text can be taken away from the learners but the diagram remains available as a prompt which can generate further oral or written work.

Related Reading

Book

Widdowson, H.G., 1979, Explorations in Applied Linguistics, Oxford University Press (pp. 73-74)

Articles & weblinks

  1. Graphic Organizers lists a nice range which is also related to discourse type
  2. Graphic Organizers and Implications for Universal Design for Learning: Curriculum Enhancement Report
  3. Cues, Questions & Advance Organizers some key research findings in summary
  4. http://www.gliffy.com/ you can make a variety of diagrams online for free
  5. http://creately.com/ (as for 4)
  6. Larry Ferlazzo’s listing of mindmapping and flowchart tools
  7. Shelly Terrell ‘s recording of awebinar on graphic organisers here!

 

 

Study TEFL with me

CELT]]>

17 replies »

  1. Dear Marisa

    Thank you very much for this really enlightening post. It’s made me realise that there is still so much I need to learn about my chosen profession in terms of creative ideas for making reading an even more stimulating activity.

    When I am “in the flow”, ie teaching full time, day in day out, I am forced to prepare and adapt activities very quickly. I do all sorts of pre-text activities with big flash cards of key words / key sentences etc as a lead in, or indeed use pictures as prompts, as you have suggested. However, I am now keen to exploit some of the other techniques you have written about here.

    This course is turning out to be everything I hoped it would be, and it is definitely stretching me, which is very good!!

  2. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of schematic/contextual knowledge when studying texts in class. It’s really crucial to the success of the activity particularly if the teacher is introducing a challenging text with some new vocabulary.

    Jon.

  3. Thanks Marisa. It seems that reading is the topic du jour at the moment, not that you’ll get any complaints from me!

    My question is simply whether we really need these pre-reading things going on. It was a question that floated to my mind yesterday as I was observing a class that purported to deal with reading.

    When I read, I pick up a book or whatever and start to read. I think I may spend some time trying to predict what’s likely to come about – in a desperate attempt to restart my reading brain I have taken to crime novels. But I never makes notes or maps or diagrams or any other thing.

    And this question of mine really is not rhetorical. I’m genuinely asking: DO we need to go through the whole pre-reading rigarmarole? Might it not be better to approach reading the same way that L1 users approach it? Of course, L2 students may stumble and become disheartened. But isn’t that because they lack the vocabulary to deal with many texts? On Scott Thornbury’s blog about phonics, we read about the need to ensure that students are equipped with a good vocabulary BEFORE they learn to read.

    It makes intuitive sense to expect that if we activate schemata and warm up the synapses before we hit students with The Real Thing, then they will perform better, but yesterday as I was watching the teacher attempt to do just that, it all seemed so contrived and pointless. The result was that students spent more time predicting the text than they did reading it. It wasn’t a topic that can have been of much interest to them (air pollution). I began to wonder in the class whether or not they might have been better served by giving them a text that challenged their perspectives – I see that US republicans have decided to reintrodcue polystyrene to the world in an attempt to hit back at the tree huggers. There must be some ****** somewhere on the internet who is advocating the compulsory purchase of a heavily polluting car. Let students read an article like this, try to make sense of it, hash out a shared meaning and respond. Not only might you get a sense of achievement coming from the students who struggle with such an unusual angle, but I’m sure that it would provoke a lot more reaction and possibly language.

    In the end though, I still wonder about ELT and its approach to teaching reading or teaching listening. Come to think of it…or teaching speaking. Writing, I am prepared to concede, allows itself to be taught. How much of the rest of it is just a case of the emperor’s new clothes?

    • Hi Diarmuid,

      A lot of what you say would make absolute sense if only

      – all students had a natural tendency and genuine liking for reading
      – all students had a good education background and were connected with a culture with a strong reading tradition
      – all students had equal motivation and desire to lay hands on text and get on with the reading experience
      – students were always in a position to have a choice of what they wish to read
      – all teachers had choice to ask their learners what their interest are and act accordingly
      – all learners had good reading strategies in their mother tongue and, finally
      – these good reading strategies (fast sampling of text, tolerance of unknown vocabulary, ability to work out meaning, etc.) were automatically transferable from the mother tongue into the foreign language (were they to be in place already).

      Is this your reality? Then a lot of teachers will certainly be envious of your privileged situation.
      And what if the teacher you observed spent more time in the pre-reading stage than on the time the students spent on the actual reading passage?

      Why is this time not valuable for other kinds of learning, of, for example, vocabulary new or recalled, or of discussing a topic in the various guessing activities, of listening to each other and perhaps communicating about personal experiences, etc etc.

      Why is this time less valuable than the time spent after reading discussing the ideas of the text? Is it because this is less closely aligned with the literary tradition of text generated discourses?

      Calling specific and focused skills training ‘the emperor’s new clothes’ seems a little odd to me. This type of learner training and research on the need to practise a skill to bring it to high level of performance is not as old as you imply – in fact quite the opposite. I think that your ‘let them get on with it’ approach would fit that description. 🙂

      It all goes back to the old Freedom-Control issue and that is not the emperor’s new clothes, but to my mind it is often rehashed and made to appear as if it was.

      May I take this then to mean, that since all human beings have the capacity to raise their leg a few feet above the ground, we all take to ballet in the streets and ballerinas who toil and exercise can relax?

      I know, I know this analogy doesn’t work straight across the board, but training students to read seems to be something you object to – in the same way that you might object to any focused skills training I guess.

      I have enough imagination to be able to see cases where your approach might work and types of learners who might thrive on it but my simple questioning was about those who don’t quite fit the profile of the erudite, curious, keen and committed learner.

      So no, I don’t think the whole “rigmarole” is the “topic du jour” as you somewhat dismissively call it.

      Really I don’t.

      But thanks for making me think about this a bit more intensely to be able to put this response together.

      🙂

      Marisa

  4. Hi Marisa
    You are wrong to read dismissiveness into my comments. As I wrote, I am not being rhetorical – just trying to get answer to questions that occur to me. And, as I said, even if reading IS the topic du jour, as I wrote, you’ll get no complaints from me – I find it fascinating.

    You’ll be unsurprised to hear that my students are not the paragons of readership that you ask me about (somewhat more rhetorically, I suspect). They often hate reading – in L1 or L2. My question is really whether or not this kind of pre-reading activity might actually foment this dislike of reading – after all, it’s not what readers tend to do. It is what EFL students are often obliged to do. Perhaps it’s THIS type of reading which requires the erudite, curious, keen and committed reader to whom you refer.

    I realise that good reading skills are not necessarily transferable from one language to another. I love reading – but reading in Spanish is a different thing altogether. But the question here is whether or not breaking reading into subskills to be practised and practised is necessarily the best way to get students to improve. No matter how many times I try and raise my leg, you’re unlikely to see me as the lead in Romeo and Juliet.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head when you’ve said that just reading will not help the non-erudite, non-curious, non-keen and non-committed learner. But will anything? THIS is what I mean when I ask whether or not it isn’t a case of the emperor’s new clothes. Don’t people become better readers just by reading? Is there research to suggest that pre-reading activities are important to help people become better readers? If there is, is it uncontested research? My limited experience of teaching with pre-reading, while reading amd post-reading tasks is that people don’t seem to progress particularly noticeably.

    I perceive a tone of frustration – and possibly annoyance- in your response and I think this may be because you have misread my post – or I have failed to explain myself clearly…and this would not be the first time…so for the record, I am genuinely interested in knowing whether or not our conventional approach to reading is actually the fruit of received wisdom: it makes sense to do it this way so it must be right. Or is it more the case that if we really want people to become good readers, we need a certain type of learner put in front of us. Because if it’s the latter, it would mean that there are thousands of teachers who are beating themselves up over a sense that they are still not managing to “teach” reading to their students. And that would not be good – on that I am sure we can agree!

  5. Am not annoyed, dear Diarmuid, nor frustrated. I have learnt to recognise the tone of your voice and it is never an aggressive one.

    But your request for uncontested research is one that no educator can actually answer in the affirmative about just about anything. I could ask the same about whether reading improved when the brain is not tuned in.

    Can dig up some research if it will bring a smile to your face but as for me, I have sufficient evidence to satisfy me.

    I watch hundreds of lessons every year and watch what happens when there is no preamble and the teacher drops the text onto the students with the usual quick topical warmer – without guesswork, curiosity,reading purpose and desire to read:

    Results: not good; OK for strong students but not good for average and weaker student

    I also watch lessons that do the opposite – and am satisfied that when the weaker learners in a class are not only enabled to read with understanding, but seem to enjoy reading,where they did not before, then something good is in the air.

    But you were not there in all these lessons so you have a right to doubt.

    Just as I have the right to doubt that what you watched was actually a well taught lesson or a well planned lesson – lots of action is not always necessarily good action.

    Why don’t you enroll on the SEETA course and have a go at the tasks? Or just read and have a few more arguments like this. 🙂

    Marisa

  6. So glad to hear I haven’t rubbed you up the worng way! I have a knack of doing this!
    Again, I can see exactly what you mean, but…I can’t help but think that the preambles are really just a way of ensuring that a text which was not chosen by a learner is going to be digestible by them. It’s not necessarily helping them learn to read – just helping them to understand.
    I think back to when my two kids (the third is proving more resistant) started to read. They began with terrible books that were outside their capacity but were easily conquerable. One word on a page and so on. The demands got higher – two words on a page!- etc until one day, there was even meaning on the page! The ELT equivalent is probably graded readers. My kids now devour the written text and have a wide vocabulary (and a frighteningly mature approach to some things and a murderously immature approach to others…like their father…).
    Now, what makes them into such wunderreaders, I am too ignorant to say. But I NEVER sat down with them and pre-taught vocabulary or asked them to predict the text or any such thing. I CAN see the rationale behind doing this with learners: once the schema is activated, then learners have something to hang points of references onto; pre-teaching key vocabulary is the equivalent of a native reader coming to the text with a broad vocab. BUT I am still unclear as to whether this is the most effective way.
    I had a reading lesson – more accurately a lesson about reading – yesterday for World Book Day. I told the students about our argument and asked them what they thought. One student said that he thought it would be useful to have language pre-taught etc. He said that he believed that it would help him build his understanding. Another student said that he read a lot of graded readers and that he didn’t feel that he needed to be given key vocabulary or have the outline of the story spelt out for him. Of course, in my mind, I can dismiss the first student’s opinion with the argument that he is just saying what he has been socialised into thinking!
    As for the lesson that I watched, it was a soulless lesson – pretty much as I expected it to be, to be honest. There was no meaningful reading. The text was less than a side of A4 and was being given to B1.2/B2 students. It was about air polllution and was well within their ability. There didn’t seem to be any learning going on – just students rehearsing well-drilled routines. Even the aims were limited: the principal aim was “to give students the opportunity to read a text about air pollution.” At one point, the learners were asked to write a summary of a four sentence paragraph – something which even they protested about. It went through the motions, but was missing whatever it is that makes something a learning experience.

    I looked at the SEETA course but suspected that I would never have the time to participate. I’m up bright and early at the moment, so squeeze this sort of thing in before I go to work. At work, I divide my time between juggling balls and putting out fires. I should be in the circus…

    • Dear Diarmuid,

      I liked the idea of asking the students but, as you point out yourself, one does not always know how to take their responses. The best thing to do would be to test this out – find two texts at the same level of difficulty and run some kind of small scale class research – which text easier/more interesting/etc. with and without priming. And then, test their comprehension of each text.

      I don’t think I would compare L1 readers from a literate book loving family – even if young children – with L2 learners of uncertain background, although I do believe in the power of challenging L2 learners with text higher than their productive skills at any one stage of their learning – especially beyond the early beginner stage which I find is somewhat different.

      What do you and other blog readers think?

      Marisa

    • Hi Diarmuid, Marisa and all

      I have been following this fascinating discussion, which Marisa kindly highlighted for us via the Seeta course. It is very interesting to see 2 quite different points of view or angles, as expressed here in the comments.

      Maybe I would like to distinguish between reading in L1 or L2. If it were a case of me studying Greek for example, then yes, I personally would appreciate strategies such as the ones outlined in the blog post above. As a foreign language learner, I really like the idea of getting “warmed up” / getting motivated to read a text, and thus, for example, prediction activities would be fun.

      At the end of the day, what is the purpose for such pre-, while- and post-reading tasks? Well, here are a few reasons why I would enjoy them from my personal perspective as a language learner:

      * They would benefit me enormously in getting a feel for the text,
      * in making me think “outside the box”,
      * in exposing me to the 4 strands as mentioned in an article “The Authentic Reading Experience” by Paul Nation and Lynn Bonesteel
      * in building up and expanding my vocabulary
      * in getting me to be creative with my ideas
      * in further exploring all 4 skills as a result of the reading
      * in further developing my communicative competence via role plays etc
      * and many, many other reasons!!!

      Yes, I do agree with you Diarmuid, people can become better readers simply by reading. However, in a lot of cases, we do need to teach our students ways to read effectively in order to prepare them for exams and this is where greater analysis should be a priority.

      It’s a shame you observed a “soulless” reading lesson recently. It makes me suspect, though, that this topic was simply not introduced and exploited in the best way possible by the teacher? I personally think that the topic of air pollution is indeed one which IS interesting to all of us and very relevant in our lives. Maybe not enough interest was generated specifically because there was a lack of engaging activities to surround the actual reading task.

      I fully support the need to engage learners in activities such as the ones we have been reviewing in Marisa’s excellent Reading Challenge course. In fact, I am very grateful to be learning even more techniques to add to the old ones that I have been using for so many years!! I can’t wait to try some of these out in the near future.

      Thank you very much, Marisa and also Diarmuid for the lively ongoing discussion and debate. I’m also curious to find out what other teachers think.

  7. Hi everyone,

    I’ve been reading the comments made by you all and thought that I’d add my two pence worth so to speak. I think that activating schemata and trying to build interest in a text before reading are valuable activities for an EFL classroom.

    Okay it’s not very realistic (like pre-teaching vocabulary) but they’re not out on the streets they’re in the class and it’s our job to help them. I don’t agree with copious amounts of pre-teaching vocabulary before either listening or reading activities as this robs them of the chance to learn how to develop the skill of guessing words from contexts. But I do think that there’s mileage to be had by getting Ss to do some prediction activities before the reading stage.

    Thanks and I’m trying to keep up with the Seeta course I only stumbled upon it last night!

    Thanks

    Leahn

  8. Thanks to both Leahn and Janet (I assume that the thanks to Marisa are taken for granted!) for their responses. AT the risk of sounding as if my mind is made up (it isn’t), I remain unconvinced!

    You see, for me the problem is that these activities sound like they are there mainly to stimulate interest in the text – something that might be rendered unnecessary if the learners were reading something that…well…actually interested them. And here’s the rub.

    How do you get non-literate or non-literati people to find materials that interest them? Perhaps THIS should be the work of the reading teacher? I think I would have to concede that this approach is likely to take time and that it’s likely to produce a lot of drop outs – but the current approach? Doesn’t that do the same?

    I agree with Janet that we (may) need to teach our students how to read effectively, but I am not convinced that the conventional approach to teaching reading does that. I can’t shake the idea that it just reinforces the activity as a Classroom Activity and somehow different to real reading. It may prepare students for exam reading, but then, wouldn’t just being better readers plus a dose of exam training be even more effective?

    As for guessing words from context, what little research I have come across (more a reflection on my failings rather than a dearth of research!) suggests that this skill is dependent upon having access to a very rich vocabulary store. In the past, when students would have asked me about ho they could improve their vocabulary, I would have told them, “READ!”, but over on Scott Thornbury’s blog comes the suggestion that successful readers already have large vocabularies. The chicken and the egg come to my head!

    So, what do I propose for the time being: firstly, developing students vocabulary through conversation and, why not, videos etc; listening and speaking. When/If they are at a suitable level, encourage them to engage in texts that they might be interested in – more often than not, their own writing is a useful resource and wikis, tweets and Facebook come into their own. Lots of reference to books in the classroom, access to books like comics, football albums, gossip magazines, encouraging them to look through book catalogues and choose some readers to be bought – by themselves- and shared with classmates. Looking at the Amazon/national top 10 book chart and discussing the titles. A role for literature in the classroom (but more in a book-reading sense than a dissection sense).

    I came across something a while back (while reading the Teaching and Researching Reading title by Grabe and Stoller that said – I may be paraphrasing too self-interestedly here and I don’t have the book to hand to check- that what made a good reader was “thousands of hours of practice”. Thousands of hours. The question I have is whether any amount of pre-teaching or schemata activating or anything else is really likely to detract from the fact that students need to read millions of words before they can ever hope to read with ease and pleasure.

  9. Hi Diarmuid and all

    Thank you for the latest update to this ever engrossing debate. I read your comments with great interest and yes, I agree with you that reading takes hours and hours and so to get better we have to encourage our students to read all the time, any place, anywhere! By the way, I love your mention of the chicken and the egg. Very “du jour”!! In fact that reminds me it’s time to go and collect all my eggs after posting this here!

    I have to say that I am still convinced that we DO need to activate interest in the classroom by using a variety of techniques as highlighted in Marisa’s post. I just feel it would be a bit boring if we didn’t engage our students in some critical thinking of the texts, and I feel strongly that we as teachers need to be more creative in order to encourage our learners to become more motivated to read whatever materials are being exposed.

    I am in total agreement with you re the suggestions you have made above for getting students to engage in texts that interest them. I still have my copy of a child’s ABC book in Greek – Θα μάθω γράμματα – which I bought as a beginner Greek student many years ago. I chose to buy it, because I was desperate to learn the Greek language quickly. The book has big pictures of a cat for example, and then the Greek equivalent next to it. I read it so many times until I could read everything very quickly and understand all the words. I’m glad I’ve kept it as it always reminds me that as a foreign language learner you have to start slow and easy, and yes, you have to read things that you are interested in!!

    At the Lake School of English in Oxford, where I used to work, and still do occasionally, there is a super Reading Room. It contains everything you have mentioned in your comment above and many, many more examples of authentic reading materials.

    Numerous magazines cater for a varied selection of hobbies including Computers / Technology / Gardening / House and Home / many Sports (including motorcycle magazines) / Gossip etc. An excellent selection of daily newspapers across the spectrum / magazines such as Newsweek, which deals with Current Issues / Politics etc / a huge selection of novels (authentic), and Graded Readers with CDs for students to listen to on the move to encourage “Mobile Learning” and so on.

    Students really do appreciate all these readily available materials!

    So many thanks Diarmuid and all for a great discussion, which I don’t think is finished yet….:-)

    Janet

  10. Great conversation but I have the feeling it’s beginning to run into circles. On the one hand we have Diarmuid doubting the value of using priming activities and on the other, the “SEETA cohort” with Janet, Leahn, and myself, claiming otherwise.

    Permit me to say that this is a moot argument, dear Darmuid, because in some ways we are in agreement – that you don’t need all this when you have motivated readers with large vocabularies and when they are allowed choice of topic and text.

    In most teaching contexts this is not what happens, and that is what I have been trying to work towards on the SEETA course with participants who have been looking for ways of motivating their learners to engage in the reading lessons which they have to teach.

    There is no doubt that teachers would not need any of this if they were able to work in a different way. But they aren’t. They have to use syllabuses and coursebooks with, possibly, very dull texts. They still have to engage their learners though! 🙂

    Anyway, as a final thought to this discussion, I would like to share a handout created by my colleague, George Vassilakis, which finds me in complete agreement – it’s called “The vicious Circle of Reading” and I have shared it here and will do the same on the SEETA course.

    You can download it from my Materials & Downloads page – it’s just one page from a much longer handout which George uses on our DELTA course.

    Thank you all for a stimulating discussion!

    Marisa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.